8th February. Saturday, Week Four
Saint Jerome Emiliani, priest, and Saint Josephine Bakhita, virgin.
Gerolamo Emiliani (1481-1537), from Venice, Italy, was a priest with great pastoral care for the sick and for orphans and abandoned children. To help in this ministry, in 1532 Gerolamo founded a religious society, the Somaschi Fathers. During a plague epidemic in 1537, Jerome was tending the sick when he fell ill and died, aged 56.
Josephine Margaret Bakhita (1869-1947), was a Sudanese-born former slave who was brought to Venice by the Italian consul. She became a Canossian Sister and ministered quietly for 45 years in Vicenza, northern Italy.
1st Reading: 1 Kings 3:4-13
(Solomon prayed for an understanding heart to judge God’s people and to distinguish right from wrong.)
The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”
And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this, your great people?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you.
Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
(Jesus gets the apostles to come and rest awhile; then pities the people, as sheep without a shepherd.)
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place by yourselves and rest a while.” For so many were coming and going, that they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.
As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Prayer supporting Life
An example of how to seek first the kingdom of God–which is closely linked to the common good of the human community–is in today’s reading from 1 Kings. The promise of a great reward to Solomon is made for having asked for the right things, the things that matter. Like an Aladdin with his magic lamp who was given the chance to wish for whatever he liked, Solomon’s request was not for a long life, or for riches or victory in battle, but forÂ understanding. Interestingly, God’s message to Solomon came in a dream at night. Dreams imply a time of retreat from the everyday rush, when God can access our subconscious mind, a time of mystical perception, when perhaps we settle into the mystery of our better self, a time when we are not distracted by selfish wants and petty concerns.
Such times of retreat and reflection are necessary–as Jesus remarked to the disciples, “Come apart and rest a little.” The peace which we are seeking is not a human creation; it is God’s special gift. The rabbis considered the Sabbath, along with the Torah, as God’s supreme gift to his chosen people. We need the long stretches of un-programmed silence, when God can appear and speak the right question to the best part of ourselves. Yet, even this solitude was invaded by the people who hurried to the place, searching for him. When Jesus saw the crowd he pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd and he began to teach them at length. He leaves behind the sacred solitude, to spread the word of God while mingling with the crowd. Peace means the integral harmony of all these aspects of our life, centred in the mystery of God’s presence with us.